Yanggak Island Discs:
'The Flower of Laughter
in Full Bloom'

Side B (2) of Korean Gramophone Record ㄱ – 56224 / ㄷ – 275025 Track 3: <<웃음꽃이 만발했네>>

The Flower of Laughter in Full Bloom (Kr. <<웃음꽃이 만발했네>>) sings the praises of high-rise apartments in Pyongyang and has been adapted over the decades with the construction of new residential streets across the city.

The 1975 vinyl version of the song refers with the construction of Chollima Street on the banks of the Potong River. For visitors to the capital, this is the street lined with the People's Palace of Culture, Pyongyang Indoor Stadium, Pyongyang Ice Rink, and the Changgwangsan Hotel.

The music video (above) from more than a decade later tells the humorous tale of an elderly countryside man’s arrival to Pyongyang, a city full of new residential streets, accompanied by his grandson and a chicken.

Missing their schedule greeting party at Pyongyang Station, the old man asks another elderly man for directions, no doubt showing just a photo of a modernist high-rise. Here is where the adventure begins. Pyongyang has two monstrous streets full of these modernist dwellings: Tongil Street in the south and Kwangbok Street in the west - both built in the late 1980's.

Tongil Street Today

He and his grandson with chicken in tow set off by bus to Tongil Street across the Taedong River, which they tour before realising their mistake. Two elderly women point them send them on their way to Potong Gate, Pyongyang’s old west gate back on the northern half of the city. There one of Pyongyang’s famous traffic ladies flags down a taxi to take him to his family’s home on Kwangbok Street.

This self-contained story is not too far-fetched. Tongil and Kwangbok Streets look very similar to each other. From time to time a foreign visitor will mix the two streets and ask why we have travelled twenty minutes to end up in the same place. West Pyongyang is also famous for its chicken stock so it not unreasonable that someone would bring a rural variety in for some good old-fashion crossbreeding.

Above a funky performance by Jo Kum Hwa.

And a splendid rendition by a military chorus.

Yanggak Island Discs is a regular posting on songs from old North Korean vinyls. Follow the Yanggak Island Discs Sound Cloud for more recordings of featured songs.

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